Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION -

Each time we think we can’t get any more em­bar­rassed or dis­gusted over the talk and ac­tions of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, we find we can, in fact, be more em­bar­rassed — and dis­gusted.

Last week, Trump and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel both at­tended meet­ings at a NATO sum­mit meet­ing in Brus­sels and a G7 meet­ing in Taormina, Italy. The most con­tentious is­sues were on cli­mate and trade, with Trump lec­tur­ing the Euro­peans — es­pe­cially Ger­mans — and mulling over whether to pull the United States out of the Paris cli­mate deal.

The meet­ing left Merkel hint­ing later that her coun­try couldn’t “fully rely” on coun­tries like the United States in part be­cause of “what I ex­pe­ri­enced in the last few days.”

That led to Trump, back to his Twit­ter games af­ter re­turn­ing from his nine-day for­eign mess-mak­ing mis­sion, tweet­ing: “We have a MAS­SIVE trade deficit with Ger­many, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & mil­i­tary. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

Mean­while, ac­cord­ing to Ger­man news re­ports, Trump had told Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker and Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk: “Look at the mil­lions of cars that [Ger­mans] are sell­ing in the United States. It’s hor­ri­ble. We’ll stop it.”

All of which prompted Merkel to re­it­er­ate that the Ger­man-U.S. re­la­tion­ship is of “out­stand­ing im­por­tance,” but Europe would “take our fate into our own hands” mov­ing for­ward.

Trump’s slap at Ger­many’s trade pol­icy raised eye­brows with other Ger­man politi­cians, too, in­clud­ing Thomas Op­per­mann, the par­lia­men­tary cau­cus leader of the So­cial Democrats.

“Don­ald Trump is mak­ing clear with his tweet that he con­sid­ers Ger­many a po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent,” Op­per­mann said. “This is a new sit­u­a­tion — we lived for decades in the cer­tainty that we could rely on each other as part­ners in an al­liance, and this cer­tainty no longer ex­ists to­day.”

Of course noth­ing com­ing out of Trump’s mouth can be taken as fact. “Look at the mil­lions of cars” Ger­many’s sell­ing us? U.S. con­sumers bought about 846,000 Ger­man-made cars and light trucks as­sem­bled in 2016, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Au­to­data, which tracks ve­hi­cle sales. That num­ber rep­re­sented about 4.8 per­cent of to­tal U.S. ve­hi­cle sales last year.

But Trump’s tweet and com­ments also raised eye­brows back here in the United States — and es­pe­cially in Chat­tanooga — for an­other rea­son. Jobs.

In Chat­tanooga alone, Volk­swa­gen in 2016 em­ployed 3,262 in its auto assem­bly plant, ac­cord­ing to au­toal­ That num­ber is ex­pected to in­crease as VW ramps up pro­duc­tion of a sec­ond car here, but even that is just the tip of the VW-jobs ice­berg: A Univer­sity of Ten­nessee at Knoxville study last year showed that Volk­swa­gen Chat­tanooga, by also at­tract­ing sup­plier com­pa­nies to the area, had cre­ated 12,400 full-time jobs and was re­spon­si­ble for an ad­di­tional $643.1 mil­lion in an­nual in­come lo­cally.

So, Don­ald. What ex­actly do you want? Amer­ica first or Amer­ica last? Chevys sold in Ger­many or Ger­man-cre­ated jobs here that Amer­i­can auto firms like GM and Ford didn’t cre­ate? Oh, and by the way, re­mem­ber that GM in March an­nounced 1,100 lay­offs in Michi­gan.

Ger­man auto firms like VW, BMW, Daim­ler and Volk­swa­gen — like their Ja­panese and Korean ri­vals — build many of their cars in the United States. In Ten­nessee alone, for­eign car­mak­ers em­ploy a whop­ping 14,089 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from au­toal­ Amer­i­can car­mak­ers, on the other hand, em­ploy 4,000 in the Vol­un­teer State — or 28 per­cent as many as Mercedes, VW, Nis­san and Toy­ota.

To­gether, the three big Ger­man au­tomak­ers em­ploy tens of thou­sands of peo­ple across the U.S., and they op­er­ate large ve­hi­cle assem­bly fac­to­ries in sev­eral states that voted for Trump in the 2016 elec­tion, in­clud­ing South Carolina, Alabama and Ten­nessee.

One more thing: The U.S. trade deficit with Ger­many is ac­tu­ally go­ing down, ac­cord­ing to Reuters.

Our 2016 $64.9 bil­lion trade deficit with Ger­many was $74.8 bil­lion in 2015.

But Trump doesn’t need facts. An au­di­ence — any au­di­ence — gives him all he re­quires.

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